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Any creative ways to wake up your 13+ year olds?

Original post made by Mom on Nov 12, 2012

I know the clock shifts for teenagers, but I am tired of waking up my children through yelling and it's a bad way for them to start their day. And letting them sleep-in and receive the Unexcused Tardies is not my style. Any ideas from seasoned parents? Thanks.

Comments (25)

Posted by Ducatigirl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

I was pretty lucky in this department, but I have a friend whose son was a sleepy head and a real bear in the morning. Her husband bought an automatic breadmaker, and set it up to make cinnamon bread. It had a timer, and he set it for 6;00, as their son had a class at 'zero period" at Paly and had to be up early. Then my friend got up and made hot chocolate, which she set up for the night before.

The pungent aroma of warm cinnamon bread and hot chocolate got this grumpy kid out of bed every time. And after the first bite/sip, his mood improved considerably!

One night when my husband and son were away on a camping trip together, I was invited to sleepover at my friend's house. It was a DIVINE way to wake up in the morning!

Posted by automatic reaction, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Get a bowl of warm water, slip his hand into it...

If that doesn't work, get a bucket of cold water....

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Been there so I know it's difficult.

First idea is to make sure they get to bed on time, that is hard too.
Make sure that they don't have caffeine for 3 hours before bedtime (to help focus while doing homework is not a good excuse). Caffeine, sugar, and eating too much too late, are all likely to keep them awake later and prevent them from getting good sleep. Same with too much exercise, or too many high adrenaline computer games late in the evening. Keep all these things for before 8.00 pm.

Make sure that they have their backpacks, etc. ready before they go to bed as those sort of things can prevent them getting a good night's sleep.

Aromas are very good to help them wakeup too. The smell of coffee, toast, etc. wafting into their bedrooms can help. Also the smells of shampoo and toothpaste. If their doors are wide open for these smells to permeate their rooms before the alarms go off, then their bodies can be aware that it will soon be time to wake.

Lastly, make sure they have an alarm in their own rooms and make sure they are set. Even if they hit the snooze, it means that they have to act which is a good starting point. You can then go in and switch on the lights after their alarm before getting to the yelling stage.

These things may help you, I have had some success with them.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Marry a strong husband. Once your son turns 13, turn it over to him.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 12, 2012 at 2:43 pm

We send the dog in to wake up our son, he's less grumpy than if a human tries it!

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Put the (very loud) alarm clock on the other side of the room. Has to get out of bed to turn off the alarm.

Posted by Jane, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Teenage boys/young men in Palo Alto are dull to their own senses, because they have no reason to be afraid of anything, like poverty or a good spanking. A strong husband can correct this problem. A weak husband cannot.

Without a strong man in the mix, there is no possibility that a mother can make it happen. The teenage boys will simply rebel. Alarm clocks and licking dogs will not work.

Posted by Ducatigirl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

Palo Alto mom: My Son's dog always woke him up before the alarm did, which is why we never had a problem!

Crescent Park dad: That is how I got. Yself out of bed in college!

Posted by Parent of two, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 12, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Love the dog wake up and the baking idea. We use frozen chocolate croissants from Trader Joe's. You let them thaw overnight, put in the oven, and voila! They smell so good, even the most lifeless teen boys spring out of bed. Threats and punishments have never worked at all. Mine only respond to kindness and consideration. For some reason, they have never needed to be grounded or been in any trouble at all.

Posted by TK, a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 13, 2012 at 5:23 am

Put the alarm clock across the room, far away from the bed. This way the teen will have to get out of bed to turn it off. Get an alarm with several settings (I use an old iPhone) and have it go off 20 minutes before the ideal wake-up time. Keep all other electronics - (working) cell phones, computers, tvs out of their bedroom during sleep time hours. If your teens are oversleeping then they are not getting enough rest at night.

Posted by Claire, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2012 at 10:27 am

There may be medical reasons why a teen (or anyone) might be lethargic and tired in the morning. The first reason might be sleep deprivation. Simply put, not enough sleep. Might be that bedtime is too late or diet (heavy meals late at night and caffeine) interfere with staying asleep.

Another possibility that is worth ruling out is sleep apnea. That is a medical condition where the sleeper doesn't breathing properly during sleep and wakes up repeatedly when oxygen deprived. Symptoms include snoring, gasping, tossing and turning, overheating, frequent waking, and being tired, grumpy and dysfunctional in the morning. It's fairly common and often goes undiagnosed. It's worth ruling out or resolving if that's the problem. Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Stanford both have great Sleep Clinics.

No amount of strong men, licking dogs, yelling, cold water or cinnamon rolls will fix the problem if it's sleep apnea.

Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 13, 2012 at 10:28 am

If he's not up by a certain time go in, turn on the light, open the blinds and pull the blankets off him. If you are keeping your house at recommended temperatures and not too hot he'll be up soon enough. Do it at a regular time and he's develop the habit.

The dog idea is more entertainment value.

The baking idea is lunacy, so much work for something he's gotta learn anyway? When he goes to college do you think someone will be so nice.

There are those alarm clocks that drive themselves around all over the floor, but really, he's gotta learn. Right now he's learning that you will do anything for him so he will not be late. Both of you have to grow up a little and accept responsibility.

Also, if he cannot wake up on time, get him to bed earlier, and without electronic devices he can play with until all hours.

Posted by em, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 13, 2012 at 11:30 am

Mom should make hot chocolate and croissants every morning? Are you kidding me? Talk about reinforcing bad behavior.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Baking occasionally, great, but I agree with another post -- you are reinforcing the behavior you actually want to change when you believe that it is your responsibility (vs. his)to get out of bed and be on time for school. His not getting up isn't "bad" behavior, it's just that experience tells him he doesn't have to work at it because Mom will always make sure it happens.

Have a friendly, problem-solving discussion and reinforce your confidence in his ability. Be willing to work with him to accomplish a workable routine, but don't do it FOR him -- his "responsibility muscle" needs exercise to gain strength and flexibility; no exercise, no strength or flexibility (right now he has no opportunity to exercise). Ask him what he thinks will work and be willing to facilitate his success with one (only one) gentle reminder each morning, if that's what you agree on,or turning on the lights at a certain time, buying a snooze alarm, whatever, but, at 13, the ultimate responsibility should be his. BTW, he knows it's "not your style" to allow unexcused tardiness. When a child knows the parent will do everything possible to avoid such consequences they have no reason to change their behavio, so you may need to let that happen once or twice before he believes the torch has now been passed onto him.

Posted by Simple Solution, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Maybe have your child take the responsibility along with the consequences. My child take this as their responsibility and sets their alarm clock.

Posted by former Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I know it used to be a status symbol for PALY academic-oriented teens to brag of staying up until 2AM doing work (along with a lot of interspersed facebooking, I'm sure). Anyway, it was sort of a status symbol (even if somewhat exaggerated in the account) to be up at all hours. This - naturally - makes one less refreshed in the AM and can lead to over-caffeination...
I think PALY (and also Gunn?) have a much better school schedule now, so count your blessings over the semi-olden days of 7 single periods, starting at what was it, a very early time.

Posted by TK, a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm

These parent advice strings can get so critical. I thought the chocolate croissants and hot cocoa was such a sweet gesture by loving parents. Sure sleep apnea is worth checking out but first look for the most obvious symptoms - heavy snoring, gasping for breath mid-snore. Sleepiness in the teenage years is probably more attributable to their final phases of growth, the distractions of modern media, and the pressures of college prep courses. I really hope there is a bright future ahead for all these kids who are working so hard during the precious last years of youth. I say go ahead and give them some hot cocoa and TLC while their still under your roof. Remember that old gem - "they're the ones who will pick your nursing home" ;-)

Posted by Gingko Mama, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I have three sons and a foster son. They all went through the PA school system, but are all now grown and out on their own. And that is the key. Who will get your boy's sleepy head out of bed when he is out on his own at college?
I gave them two reminders to get up. The consequences were theirs if they didn't. After all the grief and drama of tardiness,it didn't take long for them to realize the value of getting to school on time. And the younger ones learned from their brothers.No screaming, screaming,no arguing,no chaos.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm

I am shocked by some of these responses.

13 year olds are not college students, in fact some 13 year olds are not yet high schoolers.

At 13, we should still be pleased to have our children be our children. Wait for some of the college preparation lessons until they are at least 16. Don't make them grow up too fast, a time will come when they won't want our help. If at 13 they still need and enjoy our help, let's help them. When they are gone, we may just regret that we don't have them around any more.

Apart from that, there are some great ideas here.

Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 13, 2012 at 10:56 pm

As a teenager myself, I've never experienced some of the above strategies (Mom, if you're reading this, I like Hot Chocolate too! Also, I'd love a dog). I used to use a radio-digital-alarm clock but despite the loud volume would sleep through it relatively frequently. I also never figured out how to set multiple alarms at once with it, so that system failed.
I currently use my trusty cell phone. It vibrates, gives off bright light, makes obnoxious noise in addition to the vibrations (which, if the phone is placed on a solid surface, are quite loud), and can easily have multiple alarms at once. I do sleep through the first set of alarms when I'm sleep-deprived, but the second set always has me awake. I haven't been late to a single 1st period class this year. When in in doubt, set a large number of alarms to go off a minute or two after eachother.
^ I've found this system to be better than being woken up by my parents. I tend to be quite annoyed to be rousted from my sleep, but it's not like I'm going to take out my anger on a cell phone (parents? perhaps). On another note, I've received parental wake-up calls a few times this semester but primarily on days where I didn't actually need to wake up (late start days and whatnot -- I was not a happy camper).

Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2012 at 9:48 am

i had to be at work at 6 am so getting up was my kids' responsibility. They learned to set the cell phone and be ready for the carpool by themselves. Never too soon to teach responsibility!!!!

Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2012 at 11:12 am

I think getting kids up earlier on the weekend, too, helps them to stay in a school-ready sleep pattern. I know it's hard for them to get to bed on time on weeknights because of homework, but they have a choice about when to get to bed on weekends, and it should be earlier. When kids get enough sleep, waking up is not difficult.

Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2012 at 1:40 pm

This is an article from Rensselaer's latest newsletter:

"Blue" Light Could Help Teenagers Combat Stress

Adolescents can be chronically sleep deprived because of their inability to fall asleep early in combination with fixed wake-up times on school days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 70 percent of schoolchildren get insufficient sleep—less than eight hours on school nights. This type of restricted sleep schedule has been linked with depression, behavior problems, poor performance at school, drug use, and automobile accidents. A new study from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) shows that exposure to morning short-wavelength "blue" light has the potential to help sleep-deprived adolescents prepare for the challenges of the day and deal with stress, more so than dim light.

The study was a collaboration between Associate Professor and Director of the LRC Light and Health Program Mariana Figueiro and LRC Director and Professor Mark Rea. Results of the study, titled "Short-Wavelength Light Enhances Cortisol Awakening Response in Sleep-Restricted Adolescents," were recently published in the open access International Journal of Endocrinology.

Levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland, follow a daily 24-hour rhythm. Cortisol concentrations are low throughout the day, reaching a broad minimum in the evening before rising slowly again throughout the night. In addition to this gradual elevation of cortisol at night, cortisol levels rise sharply within the first 30 to 60 minutes after waking. This is known as the cortisol awakening response (CAR). In nocturnal animals, the cortisol spike occurs at night, at the start of activity. It appears to be associated with the time of transition from rest to activity, upon waking. A high CAR has been associated with better preparedness for stressful and challenging activities.

"The present results are the first to show that low levels of short-wavelength light enhance CAR in adolescents who were restricted from sleep," said Figueiro. "Morning light exposure may help to wake up the body when it is time to be active, thus preparing individuals for any environmental stress they might experience."

Short-wavelength light has been shown to maximally suppress production of nocturnal melatonin and phase shift the timing of the biological clock. The effect of short-wavelength light on other biomarkers has not been widely studied.

"Morning light exposure may help to wake up the body when it is time to be active, thus preparing individuals for any environmental stress they might experience."— Mariana Figueiro

The study included three overnight sessions, at least one week apart. All participants wore a Dimesimeter on a wrist band to measure light exposure and to verify the regularity of their activity/rest periods during the three-week study. The Dimesimeter is a small calibrated light meter device developed by the LRC that continuously records circadian light and activity levels. During the study, adolescents aged 12 to 17 years went to sleep at 1:30 a.m. and woke up at 6 a.m., a 4.5-hour sleep opportunity. Each week, participants either experienced morning short-wavelength blue light (40 lux of 470-nanometer light) or remained in dim light.

"We found that exposure to short-wavelength blue light in the morning significantly enhances CAR in sleep-deprived adolescents, more so than dim light," said Rea. "Morning exposure to blue light may be a simple, yet practical way to better prepare adolescents for the challenges of the day."

How can teenagers get morning exposure to blue light? According to Figueiro and Rea, light exposure needs to occur within one hour of waking to have an impact on CAR. Blue light is available in daylight, but in winter, it is often dark when teens are waking up for school, due to later sunrise. More consistent options include blue light goggles and light boxes. Backlit tablets and computer screens provide blue light, but further research is needed to accurately measure how much light is produced by each product. Compared with light goggles or a light box, backlit tablets and computer screens provide a weaker light, and therefore would need to be used for a longer period of time to get the same effect.

The study was funded by Sharp Laboratories of America.

Posted by Gingko Mama, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm

I just now read the post from "Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm".


Please explain how teaching children to be responsible for getting themselves up (after the Parent gives two wake-up reminders) makes them "grow up too fast".

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 15, 2012 at 7:10 am

Gingko Mama

I am sorry if you thought I was responding to you, but I was shocked by several previous posters who thought that 13 year olds should be able to do what college students are expected to do.

13 year olds do not think as far ahead as how they will look after themselves or get out of bed when they are in college. That is too far ahead for them to think about. If your 13 year olds still need a parents help getting out of bed, then that sounds fine to me. From my experience by the time they are 16 they will not want you to even step into their bedroom when they are there. At 13, there are some ways in which they are still children and others when they are quite independent. Waking in the morning is one of them.

ps, my kids get themselves up ok, but recently I forgot to set my alarm and I really appreciated the fact that they came to wake me!

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